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Take A Guided Tour Of Capcom's CPS3 Arcade Tech

| 20 Dec 2011 20:30

How much do you know about the technology behind Street Fighter III?

Fair warning: The following is going to be really, incredibly geeky. Those of you with allergies to outdated arcade technology, or fears that something called a "suicide battery" might actually somehow kill you should probably turn back now.

As for the rest of you, a quick history lesson. Throughout the 1990s Capcom was the undisputed king of the arcade scene, almost entirely due to the massive success of Street Fighter II. That game, originally released in 1991, was powered by the Capcom Play System 2 (CPS2, for the sake of brevity). As you might have guessed, the CPS2 was the successor to the original CPS (which ran games like Ghosts N' Goblins), and the predecessor to the CPS3 -- a nifty bit of tech that was Capcom's last attempt at creating proprietary arcade hardware.

With the massive success of Street Fighter II, hackers and pirates around the world set to work dismantling the CPS2 system and figuring out how to build cheaper bootleg versions of the game. They were wildly successful, and many arcade gamers of the era have fond memories of playing Street Fighter II cabinets with weird glitches and hacks never intended by Capcom. The pirates made a ton of cash with their bootlegging operation, and in retaliation Capcom decided that its next bit of hardware technology would be virtually impregnable.

Did they succeed? Well, not entirely. The CPS3 was eventually cracked and pirates were able to access the juicy data inside, but it took almost a decade for someone to figure out exactly how to do that, and by then the arcade scene was dead anyway.

That's what makes the above embedded video such an interesting exploration for fans of gaming technology. Retro Hardware has cracked open a CPS3 machine and gives viewers a guided tour of the whole system. The host explains, in relatively simple terms, how the hardware was wired with a series of technological pit traps that made attempts at hacking the technology akin to defusing a bomb.

I won't spoil the best details, but if you've got a soft spot for the last gasps of the arcades, or a nose for gaming trivia, I highly recommend you spend 7 minutes watching the clip. It'll smarten you right up.

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